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Analysis: Here Are the Likely “Majority Makers” for Virginia Democrats to Hold the State Senate, Win Back the House of Delegates in 2023

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by Sam Shirazi

You are fired up, you want to take action, but you are not sure what to do. The reality is that winning elections is the most effective way to block Glenn Youngkin’s right-wing agenda.

Fortunately, because Democrats won the State Senate in 2019, they are now a roadblock for any Republican legislation. But the entire General Assembly will be up for election in 2023, including all 40 State Senate and 100 House of Delegates seats. If Democrats fail to win at least one of the two chambers, there will be nothing stopping Republicans from passing extreme legislation. That means everything from voting rights to reproductive rights will be on the ballot.

Now, 2023 might seem like a long time away, but these are the first elections under the new maps adopted as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process. That means lots of changes and incumbents with new territory where they are not as well known.

The good news for Democrats is that they have a lot of safe seats to get them close to a majority. The bad news is that the last few tossup seats needed for a majority will not be easy.

So start organizing now, pick districts to focus on, and get ready for a busy 2023.

State Senate

Under the new maps, 19 seats in the State Senate voted for Joe Biden in 2020 by at least 20 points, so Democrats should hold those next year.

However, Democrats need two more Biden seats to have a majority in the State Senate (a 20-20 tie would not be good enough, because Lt. Governor Sears would break ties in favor of Republicans).

Here are the “Majority Makers,” ranked in order of most likely to win. Democrats need at least 2 out of 5 in order to win a majority.

  • Senate District 24 in Newport News/Williamsburg voted 53%-44% for Joe Biden. Democrats have an incumbent in this district with Sen. Monty Mason. However, the Williamsburg portion of the district might see a drop in voting durig an off-year state election. This is an area where Democrats need to focus on the youth vote to make sure they hold this seat.
  • Senate District 16 in Western Henrico voted 57%-40% Biden. Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant is likely to run for re-election here in 2023. Note that she survived politically in a Democratic-leaning district in 2019. However, she has come out in support of Younkin’s mask Executive Order and voted to advance Amanda Chase’s bill to allow doctors to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Given the Democratic lean of this district, this is a near “must-win” district, one which Democrats should consider as a top “flip” opportunity in 2023.
  • Senate District 31 in Western Loudoun/Fauquier voted 55%-42% Biden. Republican Sen. Jill Vogel will likely run for re-election in this district, and she’ll undoubtedly try to portray herself as a moderate to win suburban voters. Even with the Democratic lean of the district, Vogel will be tough to beat given her name recognition. Democrats should focus on organizing in Leesburg and the eastern arm of the district, which is much “bluer,” and which stretches to the Fairfax border.
  • Senate District 27 in Stafford/Fredericksburg voted 52%-46% Biden. While this area moved Democratic during the Trump era, parts of it are traditionally more Republican. This is more of a reach for Democrats, but the right candidate and good campaign could win it.
  • Senate District 17 in Portsmouth/Southside voted 53%-46% Biden. This area has trended away from Democrats and turnout was an issue in 2021. Republicans have a good candidate in Del. Emily Brewer. This one will be tough for Democrats, but proper investment in African-American turnout could make it a possibility.

House of Delegates

Under the new maps, 49 seats in the House of Delegates voted for Biden by at least 15 points, so Democrats would need two more Biden seats to win back the majority.

Here are the “Majority Makers,” ranked in order of most likely to win. Democrats need at least 2 out of 9 in order to get to a majority.

  • House District 65 in Fredericksburg voted 55%-43% Biden. Former Del. Josh Cole narrowly lost his seat in 2021 and appears ready to run in the new version of the seat. It is much less gerrymandered and keeps Fredericksburg whole this time, which should give Cole a very good shot in 2023 if he does run again.
  • House District 97 in Virginia Beach voted 55%-42.5% Biden. This district roughly corresponds to the one that former Del. Alex Askew narrowly lost in 2021. This part of Virginia Beach is a constant battleground, and Democrats will need to work on improving in Hampton Roads after a tough time there in 2021.
  • House District 22 in central Prince William County voted 52%-46% Biden. While the rest of Prince William County has turned more “blue,” central parts of the county have retained their “red” nature. Given the trends in Northern Virginia,  it still makes sense for Democrats to focus on winning this seat in 2023.
  • House District 82 in Petersburg/Southside voted 55%-44% Biden. Former Del. Lashrecse Aird lost this seat in 2021 in an upset, and she may decide to run for State Senate in 2023. Despite the “blue” lean of the district, Democrats had a hard time with turnout in 2021. It is important to not take the African-American vote for granted and to work to get it out here in 2023.
  • House District 57 in Western Henrico/Eastern Goochland voted 52%-46.5% Biden. The Richmond suburbs are another battleground area where Democrats have a shot at picking up more seats in the House of Delegates. While the Goochland portion of this district is more Republican and makes this seat challenging, the very competitive State Senate seat in the Henrico portion should push turnout up here for Democrats, giving them a shot.
  • House District 75 in Hopewell/Chester voted 52%-46.5% Biden. Another potential battleground in the Richmond suburbs give Democrats a chance at a pickup. This is a majority-minority district, and Democrats should focus on getting out minority voters here.
  • House District 71 in Williamsburg voted 50.5%-47.5% Biden. This district has a mix of the very blue college town of Williamsburg and very red surrounding rural areas. If Democrats can maximize the turnout in Williamsburg, which also has a competitive State Senate race, then they may have a shot here.
  • House District 86 in Hampton/Poquoson voted 50.5%-47%. Another seat where Democrats may have a shot if they can work on African-American turnout to offset the heavily Republican Poquoson area.
  • House District 89 in Chesapeake/Suffolk voted 50%-48% Biden. This seat would be a stretch given turnout issues in off-year elections, but if Democrats can get their voters out, then may have a shot here.
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